Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Consciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Hawaii Vacation, Days 7-11

    Posted By on July 7, 2019

    The caldera at Kilauea volcano

    We began day seven by visiting the various volcanos, steam vents, and lava fields in Volcano National Park.  We got a late-ish start but got out the door early enough to see all we wanted to see in the park.  Kilauea is the least active it has been for 35+ years, so there were no active lava fields or flowing lava.

    Departing our cabin in the morning

    Active steam vents

    Near the visitor’s center there are a number of active steam vents where hot gasses from the most recent eruption are visible. We took a couple mile hike into the Kilauea caldera.  Until recently this was an active lava lake until last year’s major eruptions.  There are two major types of lava in Hawai’i: ‘a’ā and pāhoehoe. ‘A’ā is rough and chunky, while pāhoehoe is smooth and ropy. They may vary in color from shiny black to dull brown. Both types have the same chemical composition, but pāhoehoe is hotter when it erupts and is more fluid than ‘a’ā.

    Candy standing on some pāhoehoe lava in the Kileaua caldera

    Walking into the caldera. At this point we were squarely inside the volcano.

    After this hike we drove the Chain of Craters road stopping at sites along the way to see different types of lava flows, craters, etc.

    Tom and Buck on a road along the Chain of Craters that was covered by a lava flow

    Where the lava poured into the water when it was flowing

    Are those the Griswolds?

    On the way back up the Chain of Craters road to the visitor’s center we stopped at an area with 23,000 petroglyphs engraved into the lava flow.  Since they were engraved in the lava rather than painted on a cave or canyon wall, they were much more visible that normal.

    A sample of the many petroglyphs we found

    It was a bit disappointing that there were no explanations of what scholars think some of the symbols might mean.

    The symbol of the men’s restroom in ancient Hawaii?

    After this night of hiking and walking we had dinner in the cafeteria at Kilauea Military Camp, which is much like a military-style mess hall.  The food was good, but no frills.  We then went back to our cabin to watch Moana and have dessert.

    We started the next day by walking along the trail past the sulphur vents around the visitor center.  These are similar to the steam vents on the opposite side of the road, but the escaping gasses have more minerals, particularly sulphur, and they stain the rocks bright colors.

    The sulphur vents near the visitor’s center

    Then we drove the eastern side of the island, stopping to see various overlooks, beaches, and sites along the way.

    Candy at rainbow falls

    Candy at Rainbow Falls

    Standing on a black sand beach that looks more gray in this picture. The black sand beaches are made by lava ground down by the action of the sea over many years.

    As we stopped at these beaches — all beaches in Hawaii are public — in most cases we were surprised how few people were on them.

    We stopped at an out of the way place for lunch

    We had wraps and fresh fruit, most of which had been grown on the property

    Then we kept driving.

    Our next stop was Akaka Falls state park for a short hike to see several falls.

    Akaka falls

    These falls were impressive but were only a fifth as tall as Angel Falls in South America.

    One of many beaches we stopped to view

    Us with the Waipi’o Valley in the background. This is still private land and somewhat sacred to Hawaiians.  We chose not to hike the mile into the valley, as the signs implied that the locals find it disrespectful.

    The next morning we bade farewell to our cabin and took a short detour to see the interior of the Volcano House lodge in the national park.

    So long cabin!

    Volcano House. Of the many national park lodges we’ve seen, this was the least ornate on the outside, but it was nice on the inside and provided a wonderful view of the lava lake prior to last year’s eruption.

    Our plan was to drive up the coast (mostly) from Volcano National Park to Kailua-Kona where we were would stay the last two nights in Hawaii.

    A lava beach at which we stopped along the drive from Volcano to Kailua-Kona.

    Entrance to “the refuge”

    Along the way we stopped at a place known as the “refuge.”  The punishment for nearly all crimes in ancient Hawaii seems to have been death.  A marked person could flee, and if he made it to this place and spent some time with the priest here, he could be absolved of his crimes and return home.

    The beach on the ali’i (king’s) side of the refuge compound

    Sam and Tom engaged in an ancient Hawaiian strategy game that on the face of it looked like Othello

    That handsome family again!

    Sam made a new friend


    We arrived in Kailua-Kona (mostly known just as Kona) in time to check into the Royal Kona Resort and get the lay of the land before our scheduled luau.  We had time to put on our swimsuits and play in the hotel’s private lagoon and then in the pool before showering up for the luau.

    An imu in which the pig was cooked for our luau

    This was some of the best kalua pork we had on the trip.

    The family enjoying bottomless mai tai’s as we waited for the luau to begin

    Buck and his trophy wife — or is that Candy and her trophy husband. I never get that right.

    There was live entertainment throughout the luau provided by these local musicians.

    The weather threatened to rain on us all night, but we didn’t get rain until after the luau ended. In the meantime we were presented by two rainbows.

    At the luau we had excellent food and all-you-can-drink mai tais.  Candy drank mai tai’s like a fish.  Depending on who you ask the number was between four and six!

    The sunset from the luau at the Royal Kona Resort

    The luau lasted until after sunset.

    The luau hula dancers presented dances from various Polynesian islands. We had nice, close seats, which game me a chance to really watch the hula dancers’ hands. When they sang songs in English, you could really see how the hand gestures mirrored the lyrics.

    As with all luaus, the highlight was the fire guy.

    Nighttime hula dancing

    The next morning, we slept in and then went to the pool for a couple of hours.

    Sam begin dragged into the water

    Tom tried a sample of four different types of mai tais. There is controversy over who invented the mai tai, with our hotel’s Don the Beachcomber claiming the title.


    Candy sips a mai tai by the pool. With all that fruit, it must be healthy!

    This evening we planned to take a tour to Mauna Kea to see the stars.  We have seen the brilliant star fields at Bryce Canyon, and Mauna Kea is supposed to be better.  We met the van at 1430 and got part way up the mountain for an early dinner when the National Weather Service close the road to the observatories due to rain and flash flooding.  We were very disappointed, but we made it back down to our hotel in time to watch the fireworks in the harbor, since it was the 4th of July.

    A view of the outside of our hotel

    The next day was really a travel day.  Our flight left Kona at 2000, but we got a somewhat late checkout and planned to enjoy the day.  We started at the pool again and then went to visit the Vanillerie.  This is a small farm where the local businessman is trying to make a go of farming vanilla.  After the tour, I have a much greater respect for vanilla.  It is a HARD and LONG process.  This is why you have probably never actually had vanilla, but imitation vanilla which is much more easily harvested from the bark of some type of pine tree.

    Entering the Vanillerie for our tour

    Inside one of the four greenhouses

    At the end of the tour we got a small sample of ice cream made with his real vanilla, and there was a definite taste difference.

    One last look at a beach before retrieving our bags from the hotel and heading for the airport

    … and as the sun sets gently into the horizon of Kailua-Kona we bid a fond farewell to Hawaii…

    The flights home were uneventful but painfully long at the end of a ten-day vacation.  I don’t know when we’ll all be able to take this much time together for a vacation.

    Hawaii Vacation, Days 4, 5, and 6

    Posted By on July 1, 2019

    Lookout from a cliff near the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail

    On day 4 of our vacation we began with a short drive to the Makapu’u Lighthouse trailhead.  The trail was about 1.5 miles mostly uphill to the point of land overlooking the lighthouse.  The lighthouse was built to prevent ships running aground while traversing the water between Oahu and Molokai.

    The Makapu’u Lighthouse

    Sam was decidedly unimpressed with this “dumpy little lighthouse” and didn’t think it was worth the uphill climb to get there.   The views from up on the point were very nice.

    Sam and Tom at the lookout.

    Buck and Candy

    We then drove to the north shore to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center.

    Fancy hotdogs with lots of stuff on them from a truck outside the Polynesian Cultural Center.

    Since the last time we visited the PCC, they have added a lot of shopping and food outside the center.  We bought some fancy hotdogs from a truck outside the gates (apparently food trucks are a big tradition in Hawaii).  Then we had to try some malasadas, which are like filled doughnuts.  We bought one of each flavor to share:  guava strawberry, chocolate, and coconut cream.

    Sam devours a malasada.

    The entrance to the PCC.

    The Polynesian Cultural Center has six distinct areas for the various Polynesian islands.  Each area has traditionally constructed buildings, traditional crafts, and entertainment.  After our truck-lunch we entered the PCC just in time for the show on the water that runs through the center of the park.

    One of the rafts of dancers that traverse the waterfront “theater” during the show.

    More entertainers on boats.

    A sample of the entertainment at the PCC in the Cook Islands area.

    Some of the entertainment by the Maori of New Zealand.

    Candy and Sam in front of a waterfall

    Throwing spears in Tahiti.

    Sam and Tom at the Luau.

    After a day of walking around the PCC, we attended the Luau dinner show.  The food was good, but we were disappointed the the kalua pig didn’t have much taste.  As that was what we were most looking forward to, we though the luau was “okay.”

    Some of the entertainment during dinner.

    More of the entertainment.

    A woman who juggled fire during the luau show.

    The highlight of the day was the Ha, Breath of Life live show featuring a huge cast of dancers and (the highlight for us) fire jugglers.  The storyline was impossible to follow, as a Polynesian family transits from one island to another.  The storyline wasn’t that important however, as it was really about the various acts.

    You aren’t allowed to take pictures during the show, so these are ones I found online.

    We were in the second row, so we had a great view of the entire show.

    The next day we got up early to head to Hunauma Bay for some snorkeling.  We were worried that the crowds would be heavy on a Saturday morning, but we really didn’t feel crowded.  We rented snorkeling gear and had a really good time seeing the sea life up close and personal.

    Panoramic view of Hunauma Bay

    Candidates for Jaques Custeau’s next television special

    Hunauma Bay is a wildlife preserve, and it is full of sea life.  We even got to see a seal that was sunning himself on the beach.

    A seal on the beach

    Looking at descriptions of the different fish in the bay so we could identify what we saw.

    All of us at Hunauma Bay

    You enter Hunauma Bay from up top and then walk down tot he beach.  From this view you can see how the bay was once the caldera of a volcano, but part of it has eroded away.

    The bay from up top

    After snorkeling we went back to the Hale Koa to rest and then got two hours of surfing lessons on Waikiki.

    Surfing lessons with Trevor

    Surfer girl Sammy

    Tom, Sam, and Trevor

    We didn’t get any pictures of any of us up on the board.  We were at least a quarter mile out (quite a swim!!), and they wanted $50 per person to provide a photographer.

    Sam and Tom after surfing.

    After a tiring day, we went back to the hotel and cleaned up for dinner.  We went to a local place, called The Goofy Cafe, for Mahi Mahi.  The food was great.  After dinner we walked to a local ice cream parlor and had ridiculously large ice cream desserts.

    The next day we got up early to check out of the Hale Koa and head to Honolulu airport for a flight to the big island.

    Last panoramic view of Waikiki from our hotel balcony

    Arriving at the big island of Hawaii

    After getting our rental car a the Hilo airport we drove to a farmer’s market outside town where we hand a nice lunch and picked up a bunch of fresh, local produce.  This was to make salad with our dinner in our cabin.  We then drove to Volcano National Park, took in the victor’s center, and checked into our cabin at the Kilauea Military Camp, inside the national park.


    On the way from Hilo to our cabin we stopped at a grocery store to buy stuff for dinner, breakfast, and lunch. We had to stop and take a picture of the spam aisle.

    The entrance to Volcano National Park

    A view of the Kilaueau Military Camp

    Our cabin has a nice back porch.

    This is a military camp, so it has a theater, PX, several places to eat, a recreation center, and a six-lane bowling alley.  We made quesadillas with two different flavors of spam (jalapeño and garlic) and then went to bowl.

    After two games of bowling, Sam and Tom played pool in the recreation center.  We capped off the evening with some fresh watermelon and mango from the farmer’s market and a couple of mai tais.

    Hawaii Vacation, Days 1, 2, and 3

    Posted By on June 28, 2019

    On Tuesday we began our family vacation to Hawaii.  This may be the last time we can go on a long vacation like this for some time due to Tom’s military schedule, Sam’s school, and Buck’s work so we wanted to do it up right.  Candy planned a full schedule of interesting events.

    The trip began in an interesting way, with a flood at BWI airport that brought down the baggage conveyor belt system.  This led to an hour delay to our departure.  We had a tight layover in Oakland, CA, but we made our flight to Hawaii.  We arrived in Honolulu airport around 8:30 PM in the midst of a torrential rainstorm that flooded roads all over the area.  There were three lighting strikes on people that day, two at the airport.  When we got our baggage, a lot of our stuff was wet.  The rental car facility was flooded, so they couldn’t use their computers for fear of electrical shock, they wrote down our information on a piece of paper and handed us the keys.  We arrived about 10:00 PM at the Hale Koa hotel, which is an Armed Forces Recreation Center on Waikiki beach, a prime location.

    A view of the Hale Koa

    A swell dude and his trophy wife under “Gus” the large Banyan tree

    Tom and Sam under “Gus”

    Sam on Waikiki

    Under the 16-inch guns on the Battleship Missouri.

    Our first morning in Hawaii we grabbed a quick breakfast at Happy’s Cafe in the Hale Koa.  Then we headed to Pearl Harbor.  Last time we were here 13 years ago, we saw the Arizona, which is closed right now, but we wanted to see the Missouri, which began life in WWII and was decommissioned after Desert Storm.  We took the “heart of the Missouri” tour, which included a detailed, docent-led tour below decks.

    Sam taking down “Zekes”

    After our tour, we ran into one of the normal guided tours and hear a very interesting talk about the signing of the Japanese surrender document.  For those not aware, the Missouri is where the famous picture of the Japanese surrender was taken in Tokyo bay.

    Tom and Candy swabbing the deck of the Missouri

    A view of the Arizona memorial over the bow of the Missouri — where WWII began and ended

    We were flirting with rain all day.  We had planned to spend the afternoon on the beach at Waikiki, but with the rain, instead we chose to do some shopping for Hawaiian shirts at the Pearl Harbor Navy Exchange and wander around some of the shops in Waikiki.  We also enjoyed pina coladas at the Barefoot beachside bar (in the rain).  That evening, we took in a really good magic show in the Hale Koa Warriors Lounge.  Earlier that afternoon, Tom and I were in the lobby waiting for the girls, when the magician came up to us, saying “hey, I have this new trick I’d like to try out on you.”  He proceeded to perform an amazing card transformation slight-of-hand trick in Tom’s hand.  This clinched it for us.  We wanted to see the show.

    The next day, our second full day, Candy had arranged for a guide to take us to a number of lesser-known things round Oahu.  Shane picked us up in the lobby of the hotel and drove us around the island.

    Waiting for our guide in the lobby of the Hale Koa.

    We began the day with a hike to a waterfall. There were all kinds of signs saying “keep out,” but that is meant to keep the tourist traffic down, and our guide took us up to the falls. There were many other groups of hikers we met along the way.

    Shane pointing out some local flora.

    We began the tour with a  three-mile hike to a secluded waterfall.

    The falls.

    It was a nice hike.  We got rained on during the hike back, but we dried out quickly and moved on to lunch.

    Some kind of flower related to the Bird of Paradise.

    We had pre-arranged with Shane for lunches.  He drove us to a park across Kaneohe Bay from the Marine Corps base.  We were a couple hundred yards from a small island known as “Chinaman’s Hat.”  We ate a really nice lunch on a picnic table and then headed to our next stop.

    “Chinaman’s Hat”

    Lunch. You can see how overcast it was all day.

    Some swell people posed in front of mountains that have been used in the various Jurassic Park movies

    Next we drove around the coast — after a stop at a Kona coffee and macadamia nut tourist trap (where we bought macadamia nuts!!) — to this interesting rock formation.

    The dragon’s eye

    Ancient Hawaiian legends talk about two Hawaiian heroes / gods who defeated a giant lizard that was eating people.  This is supposedly the lizard’s head that was chopped off by one of the heroes.

    You can see that the sky was overcast and the surf was pretty rough here. No one was foolish enough to be swimming here, and most of the people left as the rain began again.

    Candy and Tom enjoying some fresh fruit

    We stopped at a roadside farmer’s market and picked up some fresh pineapple, mango, and mixed fruit.  Our guide wanted us to try two local fruits.  The first is Lychee, which looks like a strawberry, but has a very tough skin that must be peeled before eating.  They were very sweet and very good.  The second was called a mountain apple, that had a peach-like pit and tasted more like a sweet pear.  Both were really, really good.

    Our next stop was 90 minutes of snorkeling around “Three Tables” beach were we swam with schools of fish and got very close to three sea turtles frolicking along the rocks.  We were probably one good kick away from being able to touch them!

    Then we drove to Waimea Bay to do some “safe cliff jumping.”

    This was a lot of fun.  Sammy surprised us by doing a forward flip!  I didn’t even know she could do that.

    A Hawaiian Green sea turtle

    Our last stop was at a small stretch of beach where we saw this Hawaiian Green sea turtle.  It was 37 years old and weighed 225 pounds.  The park ranger had placed a rope on the beach to keep everyone at least a meter away from it.

    Pineapple fields

    On the way back to Honolulu we drove through pineapple plantations.  The air had a pineapple aroma.  We had heard that pineapples weren’t grown on Hawaii any more.  It turns out that a LOT if pineapple is grown here, but it is not exported; it is all used in Hawaii.  The pineapple you find in Publix or Giant comes from Costa Rica.  I’m not sure my palate is sensitive enough to tell the difference, but the pineapple here SEEMS softer and slightly less tart that what we get in the grocery store.

    We had a really good day.  After an overpriced dinner we spent a half hour at the Hale Koa pool before collapsing in the room.

    Feudal Patrol (and a secret set of rules) play test

    Posted By on June 24, 2019

    Take a close look at the different units in this picture.

    I have alluded a couple of times to a secret set of rules I am working on for a major figure manufacturer for a new line of figures.  We are targeting Cold Wars 2020 in March.  Because of the compressed development schedule, I am having to re-use bits and pieces of ideas from previous development efforts.  It normally takes me there to six years to develop and write a set of rules.  For these kinds of early play tests, a very small crew is best.  Later, when the design is more mature, I will open up play tests to the whole club.  So a couple of folks came over, and we put a lot of surrogate troops on the table to test out activation (didn’t work well) and combat (worked fine).  We used an odd assortment of mismatched figures for this first play test to obfuscate the subject of the rules and figures.  I will be making a LOT of adjustments to the rules before the next play test in August.

    Two swell guys…

    We also worked on a couple of details for Feudal Patrol (TM).  Feudal Patrol is the version of Combat Patrol (TM) for early black powder and mediaeval periods.  The big stuff is all working fine, and the design of the Action Decks are pretty much complete.  In this play test, we were working on magic, confirming that the cavalry rules from the Napoleonic supplement to Combat Patrol were okay (they were), and testing a few new things.  Once you include things like long pointy sticks, you have to consider fighting in two ranks, which we tested and seemed to work okay.

    Zeb’s Riever cavalry advances toward Greg’s pike block.

    The early stages of the Feudal Patrol game.

    Cavalry versus infantry in the center of the table.

    Zeb pondering an early move.

    Chris wanted to try out a change in how melee is resolved.  In Combat Patrol: WWII, when a figure loses melee, he drops back, and the unit takes a morale check.  For a melee heavy game, like Feudal Patrol, Chris thought that the defeated figure should also be stunned.  That seemed to work fine.

    Three swell guys.

    A Modicum of Progress

    Posted By on June 23, 2019

    Despite being on the road for business all last week (Monday to Saturday), I managed to paint a couple of figures Saturday evening.  With the amount of business travel I have been doing, I haven’t taken the time to paint units of figures and have instead been working on a few random figures that have been sitting in the painting box for a while.

    Some female adventurers from Bad Squiddo (left and center) and Crooked Dice (right).

    Alan Quartermane

    A resident of The Village from The Prisoner. This figure is from Crooked Dice.

    Other residents of The Village.

    A figure that has been on the painting table for years. I have no idea the manufacturer.

    A figure that is obviously supposed to be Peggy Carter from the original (and only good) Captain America movie.

    Steve Barber Early WWII Americans, Work in Progress

    Posted By on June 18, 2019

    A few months ago, I and a couple of others commissioned Steve Barber to make a handful of early WWII Americans in 28mm for the Philippines, Wake Island, etc.  These need the WWI helmets but early WWII kit.  Three or four figures have been commissioned, but we need one or two more people to commission a figure in order to complete a squad.  If you are interested, please contact enquiries@stevebarbermodels.com.

    View of running soldier.

    Another view of running soldier.

    I just sponsored a second figure, the BAR gunner.  This will be figure 4.

    Figure 2, a leader figure.

    Another view of Figure 2.

    Before we started this project, the only suitable figures were from Pulp Figures.  The Pulp Figures are excellent, but there are only two five-figure packs with tin hats in their inter-war line.  This doesn’t give enough variety for skirmish games.  I am hoping with these additional figures, that I can field a platoon that doesn’t look too cookie cutter.

    Figure 3, standing and firing.

    All figures come with separate heads for further customization.

    A sprue of the separate heads.

    Please contact Steve Barber to commission a figure, which costs about $250 dollars US.  It would be great to have 10 poses, to make a reasonably full squad.

    Play Test of the Battle of Hoth

    Posted By on June 9, 2019

    Yesterday many of the HAWKs came to my basement to play test our Hoth game for Historicon.  This game will handle twelve players.  We will make a few tweaks, but though the Imperials decided they couldn’t win on turn one but the won on points at the end, I think the game went well.

    Initial setup of the Imperial forces for the battle of Hoth.

    Looking down the table from the Imperial viewpoint. You can see the hangar / cave entrance in the distance.

    A view of some of the rebel trenches before the game began.

    Greg and my wife having a discussing before the game began.

    The Imperial players deciding on their strategy.

    Looking down the table from the Rebel point of view.

    Looking out the hangar / cave entrance.

    AT-AT’s trying to knock out an anti-vehicular weapon.

    “Tank” Nickle kept pushing the Imperial forces to bypass the first lines of trenches and drive for the hangar, which was their objective.  There were some slower moving Imperial forces that could have been used to assault the closest trench lines while the faster-moving forces bypassed, but they didn’t really mount a concerted effort to defeat the first line of trenches until late in the game.

    An Imperial probe droid is knocked out by infantry blaster fire.

    Imperials begin their advance.

    I really like the look of the table.

    A slightly different view of the start of the game.

    The fighting between an Imperial speeder bike scout unit and some Rebels. The speeder bikes provided a fun distraction for the Rebels, but they didn’t contributed a lot to the outcome of the game.

    Rebels in the trenches. Counterintuitively, the towers were anti-personnel weapons, but the radar dish blaster thingies were anti-vehicular weapons.

    a wider shot of the Rebel defenses.

    AT-ATs crossing the first line of Rebel trenches.

    Hand to hand fighting as the Imperial snow troopers assault the Rebel defensive line.

    The Rebels got two victory points per turn that the four main heroes (Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewbacca) were in the hangar.   The Imperials received one victory point for each Rebel they killed.  We will also give the Rebels points for killing the AT-ATs.  It behooves the Rebels to slow down the Imperial forces so that they get the maximum number of points for heroes in the hangar before the overwhelming Imperial forces start amassing points for killing them.  The game is designed to end and points will be totaled when the AT-ATs get close enough to the power generator to knock it out.  At that time, they can assault the hangar, and the heroes will have to get on the Millennium Falcon and fly away.

    The Rebels knocked out the ray shielding on the AT-AT. The Imperials then disgorged the platoon of snow troopers that had been riding inside.

    More chaos as snow troopers take casualties from Rebel defenders.

    The second and third lines of defense away the Imperial assault.

    Steady, boys. Wait until you see the whites of their eyes. Or maybe not.

    AT-ATs cross over the first line of Rebel defenses while follow-on infantry assaults the trenches.

    Two AT-STs were destroyed by “anti-tank” fire.

    Tench fighting.

    Imperials dismount from transport speeders to assault the second line of Rebel trenches. These speeders bypassed the first line of trenches and headed directly for lines two and three.

    The table is starting to look suitably chaotic.

    Another view of the fierce trench fighting.

    The Imperials knock out a gun turret.

    The Rebels knocked out at least two of the transport speeders.

    At this point, we called the game.  The Rebels were only up by 5 points, but the Imperials were gaining 10 or 15 points a turn, so I assessed the game as an Imperial victory.

    I think we are ready for this game at Historicon in July and Barrage in September.

    Play Test of Retreat from Moscow for Historicon

    Posted By on June 8, 2019

    Last night at HAWKs night I had a rare chance to do some gaming.  I used the opportunity to play test my Retreat from Moscow game for Historicon.  The game will use Combat Patrol(TM) with the free Napoleonic / black powder supplement.  I will tweak the scearnio just a bit, but it mostly achieved the effect I had hoped.  The French felt pursued, lost troops along the way, and put up a heroic and stalwart defense of the town.

    An overview of the table very early in the game. You can see the rag-tag band of French soldiers in the center of the table being pursued by Russian infantry at the top of the picture. The French objective was to get to the outskirts of the town at the bottom of the pictures and hold out as long as possible.

    The retreating French were Perry Retreat from Moscow figures.  The Russians were a variety of manufacturers, mostly Old Glory.

    Along the route of march was a small cabin with a single pig guarded by Cossacks. The starving French were required to move toward the pig to capture it for food.

    In this shot you can see that two groups of French have left the column in pursuit of food.

    The battle for Peoter’s Pig heats up. The French eventually captured the pig and got him to the outskirts of town.

    The French got amazing movement distance card draws and made it to the town faster than I expected.

    Big surprise for the French! As they were beginning to occupy the town a group of Cossacks with a light cannon showed up in the town. Just when they thought they were safe!!

    In the meantime, the sledges and three lonely cavalrymen neared the “safety” of the town.

    More Cossacks and Russian line infantry move toward the French in the town.

    Toward the end of the game, there was fierce fighting in the town.  Geoff’s mounted Cossacks finally joined the fray with a charge over a fence at Frenchmen defending the outskirts of town.  Don’s lady cossacks and other forces were attacking the other end of the town.   The French didn’t go quietly.  Greg’s Frenchmen charged into the teeth of the cannon; Harry’s cavalry took canister at close range; Don’s cavalry took heavy casualties from Greg’s defenders in the barn.

    When the French finally failed player morale, they were down to about 15 figures remaining and were completely surrounded.

    For the convention game, I will probably add two more retreating French units.  I may also make them move as Green, even though they are rated Elite for morale purposes.  Otherwise, the flow of forces onto the table kept everyone off balance and kept most of the players very busy throughout the game.

    High Road to China

    Posted By on June 2, 2019

    There is an early Tom Selleck movie I like that came out about the same time as Lassiter (a great movie!) and Runaway (a pretty good movie, written by Michael Creighton), called High Road to China.  It didn’t get a lot of acclaim, though I think the story is really well done.  I think a lot of people didn’t buy Bess Armstrong, but I thought she was fine.  Anyway, Sally 4th, in their Hollywood classics line came out with four figures based on the characters in this movie.  I managed to get them painted yesterday at 0400 before heading to NJ Con with Eric.

    O’Malley, Evie’s father, the Khan, and Evie.

    The figures are nicer than my paint job.  I recommend you take a look at these figures.

    Played “A Gentleman’s War” at NJ Con

    Posted By on June 2, 2019

    Eric and I headed up to NJCon for the day on Saturday.  He and I both played in a RevWar game using The British are Coming rules.  It was a fun game with an old school feel and the need to multiply two digit numbers together to reach the final percentage needed to hit.  We had a good time.

    The cover of “A Gentleman’s War”

    The real hit for me was playing A Gentleman’s War with Howard Whitehouse.  When these rules were announced on TMP, I immediately ordered them.  My dad has been collecting old toy soldiers as long as I can remember, and he must have 20,000 of them.  I cut my teeth on Little Wars and the illustrations of the same toy soldiers my dad collects being used in games.  Of course you wouldn’t want to fire lead projectiles at valuable antiques, so A Gentleman’s War doesn’t require spring loaded cannons.  I bought the book and read the rules, which are quite enjoyable to read, even if you never play them.  When I saw that Howard was running the game at NJ Con, I signed up to play.

    Below are some picture I took.  There is something charming about gaming with old toy soldiers.  Whether it is something inherent to the large, glossy figures, or the people attracted to gaming with large, glossy figures, gamers tend to be less focused on inconsequential minutiae and more willing to just play the game.  The rules are easily grasped after a couple of turns.  They could benefit from a PDF chart card that could fit on a single pice of paper, but in general, these are really, really fun rules, and we had a great game.

    My gallant French colonial troops moving forward to flank the town.

    I really like the activation mechanism, but there seems to be a fatal flow when a force has been heavily attritted.  A player activates units based on a card draws.  You can see the blue and red markers, indicating that those units have activated.  A unit may not activate again, until all of a player’s units have activated once.  (There is an exception to this, but let’s go with this for purposes of the blog entry.)  Once all a player’s units have activated, all markers are removed, but the turn isn’t over, so units may activate many times during a turn.  The problem is that if a player is down to just one or two units, he may activate that small set of units, clear markers, and activate them again, while the other player must cycle through all his units.  There must be a way to solve this.  I would like to borrow this mechanism for a set of rules I am writing for a secret project for a miniature manufacturer.

    The British beat me to the town, which was both our objective, and immediately captured three of the five buildings while my Frenchmen dithered.

    A view of the French side of the table after the initial deployment.

    A view of the British side of the table after the initial deployment. The Nordfeldt caused a lot of damage on my colonial troops until we charged it and killed the crewmen.

    Another view of the table.

    I highly recommend these rules.  The are an improvement on Charge!, McDuff, and other similar rules without losing that really old school feel.